Interview: Doug Aamoth on Gadget Reporting at CrunchGear and the Future of Blogging


socialnerdia_dougaamoth_crunchgear_techcrunchDoug Aamoth is the Reviews Editor for CrunchGear.com, a TechCrunch blog that covers gadgets, gear, and computer hardware. TechCrunch started in 2005 and CrunchGear was added to the network in 2006 when Michael Arrington expanded the site to include a blog that focused on gadgets. Doug has been with the CrunchGear team since 2007 and he now also hosts the CrunchGear live podcast on Wednesdays at 3pm Eastern.



Doug spends a lot of his time reviewing products so I asked him about some of his favorites. He mentioned the Acer netbook 751h and he also told me that he just got iPhones on a family plan with his wife. "It's hard not to talk about the iPhone. It's still so far ahead of other phones." But not all of his reviews are about phones and computers. I've noticed that he often writes about random things and deals, from sandals with metal detectors to left-handed underpants. "We try to have something up at the very least every half other so it's hard to fill a day some times." CrunchGear as a site does about 50 posts and Doug writes about 5-10 per day.

socialnerdia_crunchgearlogoA lot of Doug's work is reactive. 10% of the time Doug contacts a company, while they will contact him the other 90% of the time. Doug wakes up every day without really knowing what he's going to write about because about 90% of what goes up on CrunchGear is reactive. And reactive can mean hard work. "It's not the picture that most people get of bloggers waking up at noon. I wake up at 7am and work full steam.. until about 9 at night."

Regarding how the site is integrated with TechCrunch, Doug mentioned that there is some cross-over and reciprocal linking but the interaction between the writers is minimal. The CrunchGear and MobileCrunch teams work hand-in-hand all day though. While those working in Silicon Valley go to the TechCrunch home office, Doug works from home and he's only met Michael Arrington once. TechCruch also has a Manhattan office but everyone on the CrunchGear teams works remotely spread out all over the US. Doug is technically a full-time contractor, which allows him to blog and guest-write in other media/blogs.

socialnerdia_techcrunchThe culture at TechCrunch is laid back. "You don't have the formality of going to an office. I know everyone and have met everyone at some point. We all get together at CES." There is hard work going on behind the scenes but working remotely does not make it more difficult as some people would expect. "It's not hard, we're in a chat room all day long and we are held accountable by that. It's very much like a work environment in that we work all day. It's easier to get irritated at people, but at the end of the day it's more fun and we joke around."

With a BA in International Political Economy, Doug has worked at large companies like NBC and Verizon Wireless, as well as in a magazine startup, independent film, IT, and freelance web design. Such experiences helped prepared him for his current position at CrunchGear, but his passion for tech is probably what opened the door for him to become a full-time blogger.

socialnerdia_dougaamoth"I was working for NBC and I would get my entire's days work in an hour. I spent the rest of the day with Google Reader reading a lot of sites, including TechCrunch." After NBC had a big management shakeup, Doug knew that things were changing, so he applied for a Summer internship at CrunchGear. He sent some writing and work samples, and they offered him the position. "I called my mom and I asked her to sit down, and I told her I was going to be a gadget blogger."

In terms of what has changed since Doug went from enthusiastic tech news reader to a serious writer, Doug said that the way he reads blogs is very different now. "I read about gadgets all day.. as a technology blogger that has to cover it. Now, my leisure time has nothing to do with technology. And I don't buy anything any more. I used to spent 10 to 20 grand a year at Best Buy."

To prepare for his writing, Doug uses Google Reader and checks RSS feeds last. "The first thing I'll do is check my email.. I have 20 sites I check out manually. The list of those sites changes all the time but I keep it at 20."

I asked Doug if he still likes blogs like Engadget and Gizmodo. He said, "I still like them. The weirdest thing coming in from the outside is that I started going to events with other bloggers and journalists.. when they're complaining, I tell them they don't understand how great it is to write about gadgets all day. Believe it or not there are a lot of technology bloggers that don't like technology. [We] get to play with toys and write about it all day!"

Still, the blogosphere can get nasty and Doug chooses to stay away from the drama. "There's a lot of weird rivalries between different blogs. Certain people don't like certain other people. [They] take themselves way too seriously. We blog about gadgets... who cares, have fun with it."

socialnerdia_newspapers_time_magazineThe future of print media and the future of blogging are controversial because it seems like everyone sees it from their own point of view instead of the end users'. Doug mentioned that those with doomsday theories about newspapers and magazines are often the ones in technology.

"It's weird, this whole 'death of the newspaper and death of the magazine argument has been going on for a while. All that generates from the technology industry. You know, 'newspapers are going to die because of the Amazon Kindle. But, if you talk to regular people and tell them there will be no magazines or newspapers 5 years from now, they don't want to give them up. Even regular people know that you don't go to the library to look it up, you go to the internet."

"You have to look at it from the point of view of the user. The iPod has one button, it was mindblowing. I don't think blogging will take everything away from mainstream media."

Although Doug does not want to be biased, he is fully aware of the advantages of blogging. "I can break technology news faster than CNN or Newsweek," Doug said and he compared tlarge media companies to slow machines where writing articles and getting them approved takes days. CNN is a great example of a big media company that is embracing blogging.. they use Twitter and iReport."

Doug said that the future is not that blogging or traditional media are going away. Instead, "they're moving closer and closer together."

I brought up that opinion was something that blogs had made commonplace and Doug pointed out that while true, it can become a bad thing. "Part of the criticism of bloggers, and I agree partly with this, is that you can be too opinionated.. There's almost too much opinion."

socialnerdia_thehills_twitter_facebookTwitter may be the center of opinion these days and Doug said that he has only written two non-automated tweets: "I'm thinking of standing up" and "I'm standing up." Doug even compared the MTV show The Hills with what is happening on Twitter and Facebook, "but in real life." His tweets and Facebook posts consist of his CrunchGear articles. He does keep track of retweets using TweetDeck and likes to check out www.tweetingtoohard.com because it shows "how idiotic some people on Twitter are."

Doug doesn't have anything against Twitter though. He simply uses it in his own way, as all people should. He explained, "I see the value of it. It's not dumb. It's brilliant. It's so simple and everyone uses it."

Podcasting is something Doug started at CrunchGear and it has always been informal and fun. He mentioned that it is something that you have to keep doing. Both the CrunchGear podcast and his other podcast SportsFaction about football are hosted on blogtalkradio.

Regarding what gets Doug excited in the gadget world, he mentioned netbooks, eReaders (especially if they came down in price) and the Microsoft Courier. "If the Courier makes it to market, it will be amazing."

socialnerdia_crunchpadI ended the interview by asking Doug if the CrunchPad really is coming out. "I haven't persoanlly seen it but they do have it at the office. Arrington uses one and as far as I know, they are releasing it." Doug can't review it yet and they are being kept in the dark because it would be a conflict of interest.

"It's real. There are working prototypes. The plan is to sell it, but I don't know when."

Copyright © Esteban Contreras. All rights reserved.